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HIDDEN DATA ANGERS LAWMAKERS STATE SENATOR CRITICIZES OFFICIALS FOR SECRECY.

Byline: Kerry Cavanaugh Staff Writer

State regulators in charge of monitoring radioactive waste faced harsh criticism Friday from state lawmakers, who claimed that secrecy, poor oversight and lax enforcement have led to the dumping of radioactive material in local landfills.

The Senate Select Committee on Urban Landfills hearing came just two days after environmental regulators announced that radioactive material had been detected at 29 of 50 landfills tested, including 18 with unusually high levels.

The Calabasas, Bradley and Sunshine Canyon landfills in the San Fernando Valley and Puente Hills near Whittier were among those that tested positive for radioactivity.

State Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Rosemead, chastised the state Department of Health Services for withholding information on the disposal sites for decommissioned radioactive waste. The department has said the information would pose a national security risk because terrorists could collect the material and use it to make bombs.

``DHS can't tell us where the waste went,'' said Romero, who led the hearing. ``I think based on these results, we can make a pretty good guess - Bradley Landfill, Sunshine Canyon Landfill, Puente Hills Landfill.''

Each of the four Los Angeles-area dumps contained high levels of radioactivity in the leachate, or the liquid that accumulates in the bottom of the landfills.

Officials found that radioactivity exceeded drinking water standards in the groundwater at Calabasas Landfill, but operators said that was due to high levels of uranium occurring naturally in the area's soil.

State water officials cautioned that more study is needed to determine the extent of radioactivity in landfills and whether the levels pose a health risk.

The water testing was ordered by the state Water Resources Control Board last year after activists discovered that the Department of Health Services had long deemed low-level radioactive materials safe enough to sent to city dumps.

After being sued by the nuclear watchdog group Committee to Bridge the Gap, the department has launched an environmental study to help develop a new standard for decommissioning radioactive waste.

Calabasas City Councilwoman Janice Lee said she has little faith in state health regulators who have kept residents in the dark on radioactive dumping and contamination.

``I believe there should be a federal grand jury convened to investigate the Department of Health Services repeatedly acting to withhold, conceal and distort the level of risk to our citizens,'' Lee told Romero.

But Alan Pastenak with the California Radioactive Materials Forum said the hearing was not designed to get the best science on radioactive waste.

``Unwarranted fear will lead to bad science policy,'' he told Romero.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 8, 2003
Words:423
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